Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Guru's WNBA Report: Lynx Head For R&R After Pouncing Shock

(Guru’s note: The Philly summer league report is below this one. If you are reading this in melgreenberg.com then click the mel’s blog tab on the left column to get to blogspot and the full archive. The report here is drawn from wire service coverage and team reports for details and quotes.)

By Mel Greenberg

Sitting around for nine days after a win, especially a dominating win, has a much better feel to it than the alternative.

And so after overwhelming the woeful Tulsa Shock 101-71 in Oklahoma Thursday night the Minnesota Lynx can relax a little bit, rest a little bit, and retool, if necessary, with fine tuning before next Saturday when they will host the Connecticut Sun.

Little by little, however, pieces are coming together in which Minnesota (6-3) is showing the versatility in a deep lineup that is indicating first-round overall No. 1 draft pick Maya Moore, the sensation out of UConn, to be just one of the many talented parts.

A couple of hits have been enough to keep things humble – squandering an opening night lead at Los Angeles was one. The other two were last Friday’s opening outburst in Seattle by a revenge-minded Storm after the Lynx had done likewise on their previous trip to the Northwest and then there was a narrow home loss Sunday to the Indiana Fever.

“We were on a two-game losing streak and didn’t want it to go to three,” said Minnesota’s Lindsay Whalen who took her turn as star of the night for the Lynx with 13 of her 21 points in the second period when the visitors blasted their way ahead a Tulsa (1-9) bunch that has long since stopped being any connection with the former Shock franchise that won three WNBA titles when it existed in Detroit.

Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve was part of the coaching staff for some of that but right now her concern is putting all the parts of the Lynx together for a championship run.

“Lindsay was just really, really good in the second quarter,” Reeve said. “She was the key to our transition game. She was really, really locked in from the get-go. There’s not a better guard in the league at attacking the basket as Lindsay.”

Whalen again meets her former team when the Sun comes calling next weekend. She was part of the mega-deal that sent her home to the Twin Cities while Connecticut picked up the No. 1 draft pick rights that resulted in taking Tina Charles who became rookie of the year last season.

But what was given up 12 months earlier returned again when Minnesota, having just missed the playoffs, clipped past Tulsa to win the lottery and Maya Moore was on her way.

However, as much attention as was quickly focused on Moore’s debut at the outset of the season, former Georgetown star Rebekkah Brunson, acquired in 2010 off the dispersal of the former Sacramento Monarchs roster, began double doubling her way into the headlines in the first few weeks.

Former LSU star Seimone Augustus has had her say and besides Whalen’s performance Thursday there was the breakout by Candice Wiggins, the former Stanford All-American, who missed most of last season due to injuries.

Wiggins scored 18 against Tulsa after going 5-for-22 in her previous five games for Minnesota.

“Candice has been struggling,” Reeve said. “Shw had been in a little bit of a slump. After the Indiana game (Wiggins scored just three on Sunday) I just thought she was ready to break out.”

“`Coach’ said I was struggling, that's kind of her,” Wiggins noted. “That doesn’t begin to say what I was. But I’m a confident person and I believe every time I shoot I think it’s going in. That’s what I was holding on to tonight. You can’t lose that mentality. There’s no stopping me now.”

Brunson and veteran Taj McWilliams-Franklin each scored 12 for the Lynx while Moore tallied 11 points.

Former North Carolina star Ivory Latta had 13 for Tulsa to bring her career total to 997 points.

Rookie Kayla Pedersen out of Stanford had 12 points, while Tiffany Jackson and Jennifer Lacy each scored 11 for Tulsa, which was saddle with its biggest home loss in franchise history while the points against were also the worst to an opponent.

Sheryl Swoopes, the superstar of the early WNBA era when she was with the former Houston Comets but had been out of action the last two seasons, left the game early with hamstring difficulty but the Associated Press reported that afterwards Swoopes said she would be ready to play against Seattle next Friday night.

“It’s alright,” Swoopes said. “A couple of days off will do my body some good. I know it’s not ruptured. It’s better than they thought.”

Meanwhile, Minnesota could use some help from the New York Liberty (4-5) in the East to keep San Antonio (7-1) in check when the Silver Stars (7-1) visit the Prudential Center Friday night in Newark, N.J.

But the problem is New York is coming home on the second part of a back-to-back and this time it’s from yet another game in which the Liberty let a lead get away.

This time it was to the Atlanta Dream, who rallied for an 87-81 win Thursday night in Georgia.

The Liberty, who were swept 2-0 by the Dream in the Eastern Conference finals last season, had gotten some revenge on their last visit to open the season beating Atlanta in overtime.

But Thursday, the Dream’s Erika de Souza tied a career-high with 27 points and collected 15 rebounds while former Duke star Lindsay Harding, acquired before the season in a trade with the Washington Mystics, scored 25 points.

“Erika – they did not have an answer for her down low, so we were attacking inside out,” Harding explained. “Once they doubled her, she did a good job finding people open and then opening up the lane for me and other players to drive inside.”

Former Rutgers star Cappie Pondexter had 24 points for the Liberty (4-5), who had gotten a 10-point lead with 3 minutes, 40 seconds left in the third quarter.

“We kind of gave the game away in the second half,” said Pondexter, whose team was coming off a two-game win streak, including Sunday’s home win over the Los Angeles Sparks when All-Star Candace Parker injured her knee for the visitors.

“We didn’t execute when we needed to and we turned the ball over in many situations, so there were many little things that we learned from tonight.”

Two other former Rutgers stars also scored in double digits in New York with Essence Carson getting 12 points and Kia Vaughn getting 11.

Atlanta coach Marynell Meadors said she thought the Dream would finally put together a good effort after a two-game losing streak.

“I just felt we were not going to be denied tonight, and it was obvious from the very beginning,” Meadors said. “We got in a little foul trouble with Angel (McCoughtry) and a couple of others, but we fought through it and won the game.”

New York first-year coach-general manager John Whisenant said the outcome spoke for itself.

“In the first half, our plan worked, but in the second theirs worked,” he said. “They outperformed us. There were no tricks to any of it.”

Besides the New York-San Antonio game Friday night, the Chicago Sky (4-5) needing to get on a run if Atlanta is back to life, will visit the Phoenix Mercury (4-4), which is looking to move up in the West.

In the other game on the schedule, the Seattle Storm (4-2) needing to keep pace with Minnesota and stay close to San Antonio will visit Connecticut (5-3), which is holding second in the East and looking to get closer to the Indiana Fever.

It’s the second straight game in which a Sun opponent will be without a major starter.

Australian star Lauren Jackson had surgery in Colorado Thursday for a hip injury expected to keep her sidelined from the defending WNBA champions for eight to 12 weeks.

On Tuesday the Sun at home edged Los Angeles, which was playing its first game without Parker, who is expected to be out of action for at least six weeks.

The Seattle game at the Mohegan Sun Arena marks the annual homecoming visit for Sue Bird, who was an All-American superstar for nearby UConn. in the early part of last decade. Swin Cash is another Storm All-Star who is an ex-Huskies great.

The Guru will be on the scene and will also be on the scene in the nation’s capital Sunday when Seattle returns several days after its White Visit to play the Mystics, who are also desperate to get a win streak launched in a game that is the only one listed that day on the WNBA card.

The game is one of two times in the WNBA when Seattle-Washington is not one and the same.

-- Mel


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